Preparing to Hit the Road: tucking in and bringing along various cultures


Note from Shannon: Please welcome Julie Feickert, Founder of Cultures for Health and Cultured Kitchen-Keeper.

At least twice a year we travel for conferences to exhibit CFH products. It’s a lot of fun to meet our customers and talk with them about their culturing projects. Generally speaking we are gone for 3-5 weeks each time as we travel with a camping trailer and camp our way across the US and back home again.

Being away from home for such an extensive period requires a few adjustments to my culturing routine to keep all my cultures safe as well as keep us well stocked with cultured food on the road.

Preparing to Leave

As a practical matter, I don’t ask the house sitter to keep all my cultures happy and healthy while I’m gone, so over the next few days I will be putting all my various cultures on hold.

Kombucha. My kombucha is probably the easiest culture to walk away from. I brew in large 3-5 gallon glass containers and while I normally only brew for about 3 weeks, kombucha does fine being neglected for 30 days or even a bit more. I timed my most current batch so it can be harvested a day or two before we leave.

I’ll bottle up around three dozen 16 oz. bottles to take with us and I’ll refill my brewing jars with fresh sugared tea. I could just put my scobys in fresh sugar tea in the fridge to hibernate while we are gone but I’m sort of addicted to my daily bottle of kombucha and if I don’t have a batch going while we are gone, it will be 3 weeks before I have more once we return. The tradeoff though is that the new batch will be well brewed (and maybe a bit over fermented) when we return. I’ve stocked up on fruit juice to use for flavoring. Bottling and flavoring will likely be the first thing I do when I return next month.

Water kefir. My water kefir grains are going into a fresh batch of sugar water with a bit of molasses for extra minerals. I’ll put a lid on the jar and pop them in the fridge to rest while we are gone. Once we return, I’ll let them cycle through a batch or two of fresh sugar water to bring them out of the cold-induced state of hibernation and we’ll be back to making water kefir.

Vegetable ferments and condiments. I’ve known about this trip for months so I’ve timed all my current vegetable and condiment projects to complete their fermentation process before we leave. Some will go in the fridge to age (for flavor development) while we are gone and some will come with us.

Since I’ve known for a while this trip was approaching I’ve purposefully scaled back the number of cultures I currently have going. There have been times though when I also have some yogurt or gluten-free sourdough culturing in my kitchen and those cultures can also be put on hold. Click here for a complete set of instructions for putting cultures on hold.

Culturing on the Road

I have learned through our last few trips that culturing while traveling is a bit challenging and so I have two distinct approaches. First, I bring as many cultured foods as I can. This trip we will leave home with three dozen bottles of kombucha, a big jar of sauerkraut, pickles, and cultured condiments like the fresh batch of kombucha mustard I’m finishing up today. Second, I use a powdered kefir starter to make kefir for the kids out of juice or coconut water. Click here to read my previous post on why I make kefir with a powdered starter instead of my beloved kefir grains when we are traveling.

It feels good to have a system in place for these trips. With a little effort I can ensure that we are well stocked with cultured foods to keep our systems’ healthy during our trip while also ensuring the cultures at home are happy, healthy, and ready to go to work upon our return.

Do you have a system for leaving your cultures for extended periods? I’d love to hear about it!

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. VICKI says

    How timely this is! I don’t have plans! I’m a baby fermenter, and thanks to you guys I’m on the way to a healthier life than when I started!

    Right now I am experimenting with facto-fermented veggies and some fruits. I’m not sure what I expect from the fruits, but they are certainly pretty. I spent $20 on “edible flowers” to see how they will add variety to fruit (strawberries, watermelon, kiwi and apples). I read something a long time ago about the healing powers of watermelon rind and healthy gut flora. So I did a jar of that last night. As a creative person, I’m not one to follow the pack, so I don’t use recipes. I create my recipes as I go from the “inner-voice” of the creative wisdom that we all have, speaking them to a digital voice recorder or writing them down on paper. That way I’ll know how to adjust the next batch.

    So far I just put this and that, and I always hesitate to taste it because I’m not a food scientist and don’t really know how to increase probiotics, adjust taste, etc. So far everything has been fabulous, probably because I use only fresh, organic veggies from my local urban farm or from the local health food store where I have been buying groceries or 20+ years! For me, starting with the best organic fruits and veggies is a sound policy. I’m looking now to share a winter greenhouse with someone locally to learn the art of “growing” what I eat. Wow! What a concept.

    You guys made this all possible. Thanks so much!

    Meanwhile, I’ve been invited to Aspen for the weekend! See how timely your trip is for me Julie? :-) I hope you stop in Denver so I can be there to greet you.


    Since I ate my first jar yesterday, I tested the other two (the ones I thought were *ify* that turned out to be delicious), I have only 9 jars left. So I’ll check them today and put them in the refrigerator. Refrigerator equals stopping the ferment, right? I’ll keep the fruit/edible flower jars until I’m just ready to leave, along with the fruit and edible flowers.

    I did some apples with tomato chutney, the result of a cooking lesson with my Indian chef/coach I’m not sure what it will taste like, but I’ll move that to the refrigerator tomorrow or Wednesday. That leaves me with 4 jars that should be refrigerated today. I’ll take those to Aspen and offer them to my hosts. It makes me a bit nervous to gift them 4 jars of untested veggies, but I’m confident that are healthy, good tasting ferments. We’ll let them be the judges and serve as “tasters” whose thoughts will contribute to my recipes.

    I intentionally left the first jar I made (chard w/Himalayan salt, tomatoes, onions and black Indian pepper corns) in the refrigerator and took about 2/3 bites a day to make sure it wasn’t going to go “funny” or kill me! It didn’t. It tasted as good yesterday as it did the first day I ate it. Yea! The other jars I started eating on yesterday were delicious too. I’ll finish them up before going. Question: how long can the veggies be expected to thrive in the refrigeraor?

    All of my ferments so far have been w/Himalayan salt. I did have a tad bit of what I assume was whey from a commercial yogurt. I wanted to try it and see what would happen, verify taste differences between salt and whey, etc., but I will not be using whey as a fermenting agent due to the lactose factor. I don’t like dairy or anything about the process of milk production, so why ferment with a by-product of something you don’t eat or like? The ferment looks a bit different than the salt jars, so I’ll taste it and see how it tastes and either take it to my hosts or leave it in the refrigerator.

    Gee, these jars of live bugs are sorta like taking care of kids, aren’t they? I’d appreciate any thoughts you have to offer about my plan, and I do need to know what I’m going to do with organic lemon, onion and edible flower ferment when it’s done! That leaves me with a question: if I use the lemon, watermelon, strawberry and kiwi ferments for smoothies: 1) do you put the added ferments/probiotics in the blender with coconut yogurt, or just stir it in so as not to mess with the bugs? Or do they survive that shaking? LOL… poor babies! 2) I’m not sure if the fruit will retain its sweetness, but since I used salt it seems likely it won’t be sweet! So what do I do with it? Is the best way to just spoon it into a dish and eat it? Your thoughts are appreciated.

    Sorry this is so long. It’s 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and I’m rambling. Hope I laid out my small plan well. Any additional thoughts are appreciated.

  2. Gary Wilhelm says

    We just got back from our first long road trip — bearing ferments. And it went splendidly! It was a 16-day, 3500-mile car trip to visit two of our kids in distant cities. So we had nights with family and nights in motel rooms.

    At home we have a constant production line going for milk kefir, water kefir and cultured vegetable juice. On this trip, I wanted to take along at least one of these items to continue culturing and drinking daily. I decided water kefir would be the simplest. So I set us up for an abbreviated regimen of primary ferment only, and packed the least amount of support paraphernalia I could…

    The quart jar of primary ferment (with grains), fitted with plastic lid to avoid spills in transit. Another quart jar to receive the decanted kefir for drinking, and one for mixing the sugar water. A measuring cup and jar of sugar. A tiny vial of flavor concentrate and stirring rod. A gallon jug of water, that we could replenish buying spring water at grocery stores along the way. I fitted everything but the water jug in a small cardboard box that could ride in the car with us and enjoy good temperatures while we were on the road.

    For nights in motels, we moved the travel box into our room when we arrived, prepared and drank kefir the next morning, then put everything back in the car for the next day’s travel. For stays at the kids’ houses, the traveling box fit nicely on a kitchen counter top to continue the same regimen. Of course we shared samples of our brew with everyone, and even split our grains and got one of our kids set up to continue preparing kefir on his own.

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